Review: Street Fighter III

To start, I want to apologize for my nearly month-long absence. As some of my dedicated readers might know (and more than a few pointed out), this site has recently suffered from a number of performance issues. So to ensure the best experience for my readers, I decided to put everything on hold and focus on identifying the root of the problem and eliminating it. I’m happy to say that the situation has been remedied and I’m back with the next review in my Arcade Fighter mini-series. For this entry, I’m going to be discussing Street Fighter III. Like other titles in the series, the name “Street Fighter III” actually encompasses several games. So before we dive too deep into things, let’s take a brief look at the three titles that make up the SFIII brand.

First, we have Street Fighter III: The New Generation. This is the original game to bear the Street Fighter III moniker. Unlike the Street Fighter Alpha games which came before it, Street Fighter III is an actual sequel to the arcade classic, Street Fighter II. The game takes the radical approach of eliminating nearly every fan-favorite character from the roster and introducing a whole new line-up of fighters. (From the original games, only Ryu and Ken remain.) It also introduced a number of new moves to the series such as dashing, parries, short-leaps, and high-jumps. Players are also able to assign a “Super Art” to their fighters at the time of character selection. Super Arts are essentially special moves very similar to the Super Combo mechanic seen previously in the series. The New Generation was initially an arcade title only and did not receive a traditional home release.

The first revision to SFIII comes in the form of Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact. This release was marketed as a retcon to The New Generation. It introduces two new characters to the roster and adds another tier of special moves called EX Specials. Bonus rounds have also been added back to the game with this release. 2nd Impact also revamps the single player experience by trimming things down to eight battles followed by a character-specific sub-boss.  This was the first entry in the Street Fighter III line to see a home release. The game was initially bundled together with The New Generation for the Sega Dreamcast.

Next up, we have Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. This game was released two years after the first SFIII titles and is a canonical sequel. It adds another four new characters and brings back fan-favorites Chun-Li and Akuma to the list of playable fighters. Being a true sequel, this edition of the game picks up where the previous story leaves off and contains all new levels, voice acting, and a number of new in-game mechanics.  When it comes to gameplay, the most obvious addition comes in the form of player evaluations. This is essentially a scoring system that ranks the player’s performance during a match according to a number of metrics. Another new mechanic in this version of the game is the ever-popular Guard Parry – a parry performed in conjunction with blocking an attack. If successfully executed, a guard parry will grant the player an opportunity to escape their opponent’s assault and even counter-attack.  A home version of this game was released for the Sega Dreamcast and later for the Playstation 2 and Xbox as part of a Street Fighter collection. 3rd Strike is widely considered to be the most popular rendition of Street Fighter III.

For this review I played the the original arcade releases of the games that are included as part of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection.

Street Fighter III: The New Generation

The storyline for Street Fighter III is pretty straight forward. With M. Bison’s Shadaloo organization gone,  a new group has stepped up to the plate; The Illuminati. Led by a mysterious zealot named Gill, this group is hosting a second World Warrior tournament in hopes of finding a fighter worthy of joining their ranks. As you might expect, the first two games to carry the Street Fighter III name represent the story of this tournament.  While 3rd Strike focuses on random battles that take place after the tournament’s conclusion.

Now that we’ve had a brief overview of the games, let’s take a closer look at the characters.  As mentioned above, returning from earlier games are the characters Ken and Ryu. Chun-Li is also playable in 3rd Strike. Akuma returns as a secret character that can be unlocked in some versions of 2nd Impact, and is fully playable in 3rd Strike. The following characters are new to the series:

Alex – Alex is the de-facto star of Street Fighter III. A combination of wrestler and street fighter, Alex’s goal is to avenge his friend who previously suffered a defeat at the hand’s of Gill.
Dudley – A British boxer who wants to recover a family heirloom that’s currently in Gill’s possession.
Elena – An African warrior-princess. Trained in the exotic capoeira style, she joins the tournament strictly for her own amusement.
Ibuki – A ninja who is enrolled in the tournament by her clan. Her real goal is to infiltrate The Illuminati in order to steal a number of files containing secrets about her clan.
Necro – A former captive of The Illuminati. After being held against his will and experimented on for years, Necro now thirsts for revenge against the organization that enslaved him
Oro – A formidable old master. Oro has entered the tournament in hopes of finding an opponent worthy of learning his greatest martial arts techniques.
Sean – Ken’s disciple. Sean is a rookie fighter who joins the tournament to prove his skill.
Yang and Yun – Two brothers from Hong Kong skilled in the art of Kung Fu. Initially, they were simply palette swaps of the same character. But with the release of 2nd Impact the brothers were modified to be unique characters with their own moves.

Added in 2nd Impact:

Hugo – A professional wrestler who has entered the tournament in hopes of finding a new tag-team partner.
Urien – Gill’s brother. Urien’s goal is defeat his brother and take over The Illuminati.

Added in 3rd Strike:

Makoto – A young karate instructor. Makato has joined the tournament both to bring honor to her dojo and to recruit new students.
Q – An enigma. No one knows much about this mysterious character or his intentions. It has been observed that disasters often flourish in his wake.
Remy – A moody brawler from France.
Twelve – A genetic assassin created by The Illuminati. Twelve’s prime directive is to eliminate his prototype; Necro.

2nd Impact

So, now that we’re familiar with everything the Street Fighter III label has to offer, where should you start? Well, after playing through all three games, I can tell you that if you skip over The New Generation, you won’t be missing much. In its own right, The New Generation is not a bad game at all. In fact, it’s pretty solid. But 2nd Impact is just THAT much better. It really doesn’t matter how you slice it, 2nd Impact just brings more to the table in terms of gameplay. For this reason, the real debate between fans tends to focus between 2nd Impact and 3rd Strike.

Both games have their pros and cons. For starters, it’s often argued that 2nd Impact is better balanced and easier for a rookie to pick up and play. On the surface, this is a statement that I can agree with.  3rd Strike admittedly does suffer from some balance issues.  And yes, it’s arguably more complicated to grasp. However, once you’re truly able to master the game, the balance issues fall by wayside. The complexity of 3rd Strike enables skilled players to render any balance concerns between characters into a non-issue. In the end, neither game really comes out as a clear winner. Ultimately, it’s all down to personal preference.

For players just getting their first taste of Street Fighter III thanks to the 30th Anniversary Collection, my recommendation is to first play and become familiar with 2nd Impact, then move on and master 3rd Strike. This way you not only get to experience the full story of both games, but by progressing from one game to the other in this way, it becomes easier to understand and master some of the more complex mechanics included in the later game.

The Street Fighter III games are often still overshadowed by the legacy of Street Fighter II. But they are worthy entries in the series. Personally, I find the gameplay of 3rd Strike to be much more engaging than anything found in either SFII or even SF Alpha. But it still seems to fall just a bit short when comes to capturing the magic that made SFII a household name. That being said, these games still represent some of the best that the fighter genre has to offer. Even though these games are showing their age, if you’re a fan of arcade fighters, you owe it to yourself to take a look.

In a field of games that was quickly becoming overcrowded, The New Generation and 2nd Impact did little to stand out among the competition. By this time, fans were enamored with 3D fighting games like Tekken and Mortal Kombat 4. These flashy games made the first SFIII titles seem like yesterday’s news. But, by the time 3rd Strike rolled around, many fans had already grown tired of the fuzzy 3D polygons and were longing for a modern take on a classic formula. 3rd Strike offered everything they were looking for and then some. From its colorful 2D graphics to its peppy soundtrack, 3rd Strike was still able to dazzle while providing a new level of complex gameplay that made it the fighting game of choice for many players.

In my own personal opinion, if you can manage to take off the rose-colored glasses and set nostalgia to the side, Street Fighter III – 3rd Strike actually unseats Street Fighter II as the best in the series thus far.

3rd Strike

Difficulty: Medium – When playing any of these games in single player mode each opponent you face will gradually increase in difficulty. The difficulty ramp seems to be much more appropriate in this family of games than in those prior. But no matter how you slice it, conquering the game will take time and practice. But with a little patience, it isn’t too difficult to master the mechanics behind any of these games. 3rd Impact is the most complex and probably the hardest game of the three to master. Naturally, playing against other players is a completely different story.

Multiplayer: Local (original game)  – Anniversary collection features online multiplayer

Story: The story for The New Generation and 2nd Impact takes the series in a slightly different direction, even if it’s actually a little weak in its presentation. 3rd Strike really doesn’t have much of a cohesive plot, it’s essentially just the tying up of loose ends from the previous game, but it does manage to add some pretty interesting characters to the mythology.

Originality: These games continue to build off of the concepts and mechanics from earlier titles in the series and with the exception of The New Generation, improves on them in almost every way. By the time these games were released, the genre of fighting games had reached its peak. It was getting harder for developers to come up with original ideas. But, while competitors were resorting to 3D graphics and other technical gimmicks to entice players, Capcom was continuing to innovate by coming up with new and interesting gameplay mechanics.

Soundtrack: As usual, each character has their own unique theme song and they vary from game to game. The New Generation and 2nd Impact feature soundtracks similar to what players of earlier entries might expect. But with the release of the 3rd Strike, things changed drastically. All of a sudden the music of Street Fighter stopped sounding like a video game and started sounding like an early 90’s rap album. For me, being a young player in the arcade, I found the change a little jarring. Even now, playing the game again as an adult it seems like a pretty odd move by the developers. But, even if they are bit out of place, the upbeat tunes still somehow manage to compliment the action on the screen.

Fun: The New Generation feels a lot like SFII to me, and from a nostalgia perspective, that can be appealing. But when it comes to all-out fun, 3rd Strike takes the cake. In fact, it might just be the most enjoyable entry in the whole Street Fighter series thus far. From the graphics, to the quirky soundtrack, to the deep level of complexity in the controls, it’s just a blast to play.

Graphics: The graphics of all three of these games are pretty well rendered. But 3rd Strike comes out as the clear winner. While many other developers were turning their attention to 3D graphics, Capcom stuck with the traditional 2D anime style that made the series famous. Street Fighter has never looked better.

Playcontrol: Capcom just gets it right. Just like with SFII and SF Alpha, the home ports of these games represent the rare occasion where the console version is just as good as the original arcade version. If playing the Anniversary Collection on modern hardware, everything feels fluid and responsive. I could find no complaints. My only caveat to this lies in the Switch version. When playing on the Switch, I highly recommend using the pro controller over the Joy Cons. I found the grip of the pro controller to be much for comfortable for this type of game, especially for longer sessions.

Downloadable Content: No.

Mature Content: Martial arts violence.

Value: The Street Fighter III series is available as part of the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection which retails for anywhere between $20-$40, depending on the system. This nets you all three arcade games along with other entries in the series. The Street Fighter III – 3rd Strike – Online Edition is a version of 3rd Strike that’s available on Xbox Arcade and PSN for around $15.00-$20.00. But honestly, when put up against the value of the Anniversary Collection, it just doesn’t make much sense.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – While each game in the SFIII series is unique in its own way, 3rd Strike does seem to emerge as a clear winner and manages to restore some of the magic that was stolen away by competing fighting games. Its fast pace, flawless playcontrol, and massive roster of playable characters makes it a great choice for any fighting game fanatic. And if we’re talking about options and complexity, 3rd Strike easily seizes the throne as the most innovative title in the series thus far.

Originally Available: Arcade, Dreamcast

Available on:Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

Street Fighter    –   Street Fighter II   –   Street Fighter Alpha   – Street Fighter III   –   Street Fighter IV   –   Street Fighter V